IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Jobless claims still stuck at four-month high

For several months, the general trend on initial unemployment claims has been encouraging, reaching a four-year low in late March. Today's new report from the Department of Labor, however, is the third consecutive week of discouraging news.

The new figures are an ever-so-slight improvement over last week's total, but that's only because last week's number was revised in the wrong direction.

The number of Americans who filed requests for jobless benefits was virtually unchanged last week at 388,000, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday, keeping claims near their highest level of 2012. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 389,000 from 386,000. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had projected claims would drop to a seasonally adjusted 375,000 in the week ended April 21. The average of new claims over the past four weeks, meanwhile, climbed by 6,250 to 381,750, matching the highest level of the year.

Obviously, a few disappointing reports may be little more than a blip, but when jobless claims are expected to drop, and instead remain stuck at a four-month high, it's concerning.

Making matters slightly worse is the realization that if conditions continue along these lines, there's very little that can be done -- Congress simply lacks the ability to pass effective economic legislation given the Republican agenda.

In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are actually being created rather quickly. After a month of four consecutive reports below 370,000, we've now been above 380,000 for each of the last three weeks.

And with that, here's the chart -- which reflects the revised, seasonably-adjusted data -- showing weekly, initial unemployment claims going back to the beginning of 2007. (Remember, unlike the monthly jobs chart, a lower number is good news.) For context, I've added an arrow to show the point at which President Obama's Recovery Act began spending money.